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In the past 30 years, food allergies have become increasingly common in the United States. Changes to human genetics can't explain the sudden rise. That is because it takes many generations for changes to spread that widely within a population. Perhaps the explanation lies in changes to our environment, particularly our internal environment. Shifting lifestyle practices over the last half-century—increasing antibiotic and antimicrobial use, surface sterilization, air filtration and changes to diet—have changed our internal environment and wiped out important bacteria with beneficial health effects.

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Mike Kemp / In Pictures / Getty Images

By Jodi Helmer

Your sourdough starter has terroir—and researchers at NC State University are determined to understand it. Its Sourdough Project collected 550 sourdough starters from around the world and analyzed the micro-organisms found in each sample to determine how the environment affects wild yeast and lactic and acetic acids that give the starter its unique flavor.

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Nick Harris / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Haixia Yang

The antimicrobial chemical triclosan is in thousands of products that we use daily: hand soaps, toothpastes, body wash, kitchenware and even some toys. Work in our lab suggests that this compound may have widespread health risks, including aggravating inflammation in the gut and promoting the development of colon cancer by altering the gut microbiota, the community of microbes found in our intestines.

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